BOSTON – Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D-Pittsfield) has teamed up with the Lakes and Ponds Association of Western Massachusetts (LAPA-West) and the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC) to further protect Berkshire County’s inland lakes and ponds from invasive aquatic species.
Today, Downing filed An Act Protecting Lakes and Ponds – legislation prohibiting boaters from launching a vessel exposed to contaminated waters over the last thirty days that has not been properly decontaminated upon the inland waters of the Commonwealth.
The bill defines “invasive species” as an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. This definition was used in President Clinton’s Executive Order 13112 on February 3, 1999 and is recognized by the scientific community and environmental groups nationwide.
“Massachusetts’ lakes and ponds are a valuable natural resource, providing wildlife habitat and destinations for various outdoor recreational activities,” said Downing. “Boaters have a responsibility to make sure their vessels and equipment are thoroughly flushed, washed and dried to prevent the unintentional spread of invasive species. This proposal codifies that obligation and authorizes environmental law enforcement officers to enforce its practice.”
In June LAPA-West and BRPC approached Downing and requested he review their legislative recommendations to prevent the spread of invasive species in Massachusetts’ lakes and ponds, citing similar statutes in Maine, Connecticut and Minnesota. Downing’s bill authorizes the Massachusetts Environmental Police to enforce the provision, and outlines the penalty as a fine, ranging from $50 to $300, or imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not more than 60 days, or both.
“The Lakes and Ponds Association of Western Massachusetts wholeheartedly supports Senator Downing’s efforts to provide those responsible for policing the lakes and ponds in the Commonwealth with this very necessary expansion of powers,” said Jack Hickey, President of LAPA-West.
The bill is especially timely due to the recent discovery of Zebra Mussels in Laurel Lake in Lee and the resulting public boat ramp closures at Center and Yokun Ponds in Becket, Plunkett Reservoir in Hinsdale, Richmond Pond and Stockbridge Bowl.